Class speaker Alex Bradea addresses the crowd on Tuesday before the first summer commencement at Georgia Gwinnett College. The class included about 80 graduates. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)
LAWRENCEVILLE — When Alex Bradea enrolled at Georgia Gwinnett College, the native Romanian’s fledgling construction company suffered in the midst of the Great Recession.
With a diploma in hand on Tuesday, Bradea, the student speaker at GGC’s first summer commencement, held a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a double concentration in finance and accounting. A client associate at Merrill Lynch, Bradea hopes to become a portfolio manager for a mutual or hedge fund company while he continues his education.
Bradea said he enrolled at GGC for convenience and affordability.
“But I found more than that,” he said. “I found that teachers really get to know you as a person and participate in your life. GGC was the perfect fit for me.”
Bradea was one of about 80 who graduated from GGC on Tuesday in an afternoon ceremony before a crowd of nearly 700 at the college’s Large Venue Interactive Space on campus. Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson gave the commencement address and said the graduates could be in a class that features a Pulitzer Prize winner, a car mechanic, a future pilot of Air Force One.
“What will you do to change the world,” she said.
Interim President Stas Preczewski called the graduates “pioneers,” and told attendees to hold on to the commencement program because it could be a collector’s item one day, like the first Superman comic book.
Preczewski noted that only a couple years ago, the LVIS building didn’t exist.
“We also had no library, no residence halls, no lab building, no athletics facilities,” Preczewski said. “Today, we have more than 1,200 alumni.”
As he discussed his GGC career, Bradea thanked several professors and told the crowd that his first attempt to write an essay took more than a week. He said one professor was the epitome of professionalism, while another taught him how to pronounce epitome. One professor showed him how accounting is the language of business, while another taught him how to negotiate a salary.
Bradea thanked the professor who taught him how to endorse a check, and one who told him what to do if the Internal Revenue Service is knocking at the door.
“Sue them,” he said. “Just kidding.”
Another showed him something he couldn’t find in a textbook.
“Talking on a cellphone in a restroom may not be the most effective way to conduct business,” he said, which drew a laugh from the crowd.
Bradea dedicated his degree to his sister, who encouraged him to enroll.
Johnson challenged the graduates to not let their career define who they are. She said they should read to children, become a foster parent, or work with hospice.
“Your job is not you, it’s what you do to make a living,” she said.
Johnson also told a story about a farmer’s donkey who was stuck in a well. Without a way to get the animal out, the farmer decided to cover the hole with dirt. As neighbors and friends helped the farmer fill the hole with dirt, the donkey’s cries became louder, then grew quieter.
“He would shake it off, and take a step up,” Johnson said. “Life will shovel dirt on you. The key is to shake it off, and take a step up.”